Ten Ways Behringer Could Have Improved On The Arturia KeyStep

The Behringer introduction, earlier this week, of the Swing MIDI controller – a knockoff of the popular Arturia Keystep – struck many readers as sad and even pathetic.

Or, as Glen Darcey, VP of Product Management at Arturia during the development of the original Keystep, says, “To take a product that has been on the market for 5 years and not do anything new, learning from customer complaints or looking at alternate use cases, is just absurd.”

Chicago-based designer Clayton Miller viewed Behringer’s Keystep knockoff as a lost opportunity. He decided to use the Swing controversy as an opportunity to explore some of the other possibilities that Behringer’s approach ignored.

“Everyone’s roasting Behringer right now, and for good reason,” he says. “I tried to take a positive approach and explore what they could have done to actually innovate!”

On his site interuserface.net, Miller shares Ten Ways Behringer Could Have Improved on the KeyStep.

The article includes 10 design sketches that show some of the possibilities of creating iterations on the Keystep design, rather than simply copying. They include options like adding a row of buttons for step sequencing, shown above, or incorporating a joystick instead of touchstrip controls, right.

“It is a genuine head-scratcher – how a company that clearly has the capability for original product development, given critical successes such as its Neutron semi-modular synthesizer or its Wing mixing console, could veer to such an unimaginative extreme,” adds Miller. “How hard would it have been to think of something – anything – to differentiate the hardware? Could they really not come up with a single idea?”

Check it out and let us know what you think. Would any of these designs make you more interested in buying a Behringer alternative to the Keystep?

62 thoughts on “Ten Ways Behringer Could Have Improved On The Arturia KeyStep

      1. Maybe Uli Behringer is actually under pressure from the Chinese who are making the blatant knockoffs and are simply using Behringer as a coal chute into the West. The Chinese, who couldn’t care less what any one of us thinks, could find another Behringer type front man easily, but Behringer would be hard pressed to survive if he is blacklisted in China.

        1. I agree. It’s likely that Music Tribe has some very aggressive Chinese investors who want good return on their investments. Uli has a reputation for micromanagement, but it’s impossible for him to oversee every facet of a giant company unless he goes without sleep for days on end living on a fridge full of energy drinks. There are signs that a lot of the company’s development work is being pulled to into China, and it appears that there is a culture of fear within the Music Tribe walls that causes everyone to play safely and conservatively for fear of punishment from making mis-steps.

        2. Ah ha! You may be on to something. What if the Swing is meant to sell in non-western markets? Maybe the retail price in the billion person China market will be a third or half the price of the Arturia! These moves might be Behringer taking over the Chinese market and these press releases in english are just a distraction.

  1. +1 for a joystick and generative/random elements. that would have been super cool. The keystep 37’s abilities are still really exciting to me, though. the price/feature ratio seems just right.

      1. I would actually love a KeyStep clone but with full-size keys. There’s such a dearth on the market right now of good small controllers with full-size keys.

  2. Missed a trick there : Add a robust case-mounted USB 2B connection and tear that horrible little board-mounted micro USB out into an abandoned warehouse and hit it repeatedly with a hammer, which is on fire.
    Sorry, the rage came back.

    I’m glad to see in more recent Arturia products they have abandoned the hate-socket

  3. It’s interesting that in these articles little is mentioned that Arturia issued a major hardware revision to the device a couple months ago with many new features and the Behringer version is completely obsolete at this point.

    1. I thought that was the big news yesterday too. A big gift for AKAI users. Love Synthtopia but slow to process press releases on occasion.

  4. One thing those 10 suggestions made me realize is that the original Arturia is pretty nice.

    I had a kurzweil keyboard once with ribbon strips instead of wheels, and I took to it right away.

    Like a certain rabid bat, I really love full-sized keys (6.5″ per octave), so that’d be the one suggestion I’d like, but it would need to come from A and not B for me to even give it a second glance.

          1. Thinking of it as a diversity issue is pretty interesting & compelling.

            I’m sure you can find examples of people who experience hand pain from playing piano (regardless of scale size), and you can find people who heave a sigh of relief, even shed tears when then put their hands on a smaller keyboard.

            FWIW, I have shed tears with mini keys, whilst grumbling “f**k these tiny keys”.

            But I would NEVER say that there is no place for smaller keys. They absolutely should exist. I just don’t care for them personally.

            I’m also quite a fan of the alternative keyboard layouts. I’ve never used one, and don’t plan to, but I fully support it as a concept.

            1. 6.5″ is as extreme, considering physiological distribution, as 5.0″. As a sole standard it is absurd. Jet pilots in the 40s were crashing and dying because their cockpit ergonomics were crap and unadjustable. This got fixed.

              Globally 5.75″ is a reasonable compromise. I personally prefer 6″ and can enjoy 6.25″. But 6.5″ is optimized for an extreme minute number of people, perhaps fewer than 3% globally. All of whom would be happy with 6″.

              1. Your comparison of key-width to cockpit ergonomics is pretty funny. I like the image of a piano player at a broadway show trying to bring the whole pit, cast & crew in for a safe landing.

                Of course, you are welcome to express your preferences– but putting a gold frame around them and trying to make them the international standard is… well.. apt to be mistaken for sarcasm.

                Your characterization of 6.5″ keywidths being preferred by an “extreme minute number of people” … that’s hilarious.

          2. RABID BAT made the above comment and does not approve of how it was changed to “R”. Rabid Bat stands by their words, always posted with their true and full legal name of RABID BAT.

  5. Their response was funny.
    They ‘partner’ with Microsoft, Siemens, and Adobe. Haha so they use Siemens Solid Edge for 3D and PCB design, Illustrator for artwork, and Excel for BOM’s. WTF is this garbage. So doesn’t every other company form one man in garage to the largest. They also just put out some crappy video showing their ‘3D design’. WTF every company does this for two decades now. And their ‘design’ sucks, they use simple STEP models in their 3D assembly and don’t even bother to download or create their own detailed 3D step models for the components. They don’t even add the soldermask and copper layers on their shitty renderings. The cheapest Altium CircuitMaker does what they have done… And they don’t even bother to use rendering software such as Keyshot, 3DS Max or Cinema 4D etc.. to properly render the models.

    1. hahaha.

      i have to say tho, i think they’ve been redeeming themselves with their museum of eurorack knockoffs and other things in the synth markets.

      but they juuuust HAD HAD HAD HAD HAD to pick that pus ridden bloody scab and watch it all gush OUT!

      gross.

      happy now, Behringer?

  6. A joystick stubby enough to survive a backpack would probably be too short to control well. (Though I’m curious to hear others’ experiences.)

    I’d replace the KeyStep’s pitch-bend ribbon with the pressure-sensitive buttons from the CME XKey. They’re the XKey’s sleeper feature, I think β€” sensitive enough for both trills and bigger bends.

    I’d also add MIDI program change, maybe via a shift function for the proposed sequencer buttons.

    Replace the dinky DIP switches with switches you can operate with your fingers.

    And, of course, an LED indicator for the status of the mod ribbon:

    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2017/06/07/synth-diy-with-monsters-junk-a-tapered-reamer

    1. > A joystick stubby enough to survive a backpack would probably be too short to control well. (Though I’m curious to hear others’ experiences.)

      The Akai MPKmini’s joystick is tiny but usable, but it’s spring loaded return to center so not the same thing. I personally greatly prefer the Novation SLII’s x/y pad controller to a joystick. The SLII also had a joystick that was spring loaded but could have the spring be disabled through a switch. For pitch bend I prefer spring loaded, but for things that are really 2D parameters, like spatial positioning and multidimensional parameter mixing a pad is so much better since you can not just move around but can also do jumps.

      On pitch I also vastly prefer x oriented pitch levers to y oriented pitch levers and find them much easier to bend with for solid ergonomic reasons. One can wiggle fingers side to side with more precision than up and down. But better than either of these is z finger sensing, including both touch pressure and the near pad air region.

  7. From Behringer’s response to being called out for swiping someone’s design, yet again…
    “Competition is a highly effective tool to drive innovation by empowering Customers to make their best choices and force manufacturers to constantly reinvent themselves. Innovation means progress and this happens on many levels, whether it relates to customer experience, functionality or cost efficiencies etc.”

    You guys! When Behringer straight up steals your design, he’s just competing with you. You know, so you can reinvent yourself with innovative new designs, for him to steal! Why are you not chill with that?

    If they had made a similar, better product, using their own design, and sold it for less, THEN it would be competition.

    Of course he knows this. But you can’t shame an asshole.

    If you’re keeping score for some reason- Music Tribe/Group includes Midas, Klark Teknik, Behringer, Bugera, Eurocom, Turbosound, TC Electronic, TC-Helicon, Lake, Lab.gruppen, Tannoy, TC Applied Technologies and CoolAudio.

  8. Nah, that stuff would require creativity and ingenuity… they are like a band that can only play cover songs, never originals. Also, then they couldn’t undercut Arturia on the price.

    1. It’s dosen’t appear like patent issue. You can’t patent a midi keyboard or step sequencer. Maybe trademark infrigement, but that could be hard to prove.

      1. it’s called trade dress, google it. it’s covered under the lanham act here in the US, and it doesn’t require any patent registration. basically, if a nonmusician judge and a jury of 12 nonmusicians decides that the general public could confuse these 2 products, then behringer could lose in court.

        1. Ok well I’m not based in USA so the particular laws in question are different here. Still, as you say, behringer _could_ lose in court. But judging just by the vast amount of counterfeit products marketed for decades by major American corporations (example: Amazon), it is far from guaranteed.

  9. I’ve got a Keystep and I can think of three things that would be a major improvement, and maybe Behringer has covered one of them (I won’t know until I try it) – 1) a better feeling keyboard (the Keystep has the most awful, clunky keyboard) 2) a pitch and mod wheel instead of the cheap and crappy touch-strips 3) all functionality switchable from the device itself, with no need for a software connection to change any modes. Anything on top of that would be a bonus.

  10. It would have been more meaningful if this article had been published as a warning, not as an afterthought.
    It’s ridiculous to blame each other.

  11. I said to a friend when this all blew up that all Behringer needed to do was offer full-sized keys and that would have been enough product differentiation to make it a worthwhile exercise. Give it poly aftertouch, or proper pitch/mod wheels and it’s a better proposition for a true “player”. It’s baffling they changed not one thing.

  12. Designers are pretty opportunist, I’ve noticed. Oh well, it’s a competitive business.

    The thing that really killed Behringer here was not just copying the functionality and general design, but the one thing that was whimsical, the pointy play button. Well, it’s what they deserve. I was very supportive of their cloning old classics but they lost me with that vindictive and nasty personal campaign against Peter Kirn

  13. ‘Glen Darcey, VP of Product Management at Arturia during the development of the original Keystep, says, β€œTo take a product that has been on the market for 5 years and not do anything new, learning from customer complaints or looking at alternate use cases, is just absurd.”’

    Good point about not resting on your laurels.

    I guess he’s lucky that Behringer decided to clone the 5-year-old model and not the new 2020 Keystep!

  14. Thing is , i dont care if Behringer is copying everything IF they had a bit of style. They have the means and resources to continue doing nice things like Neutron, Deepming etc but Nooooo. Copy other things.

    This is almost like if Elon Musk would start bringing out replicas of sought after cars instead of innovating. Well lets put it this way. With Behringers way , we will never get to Mars. And if we do it would be in a copy of the Apollo rockets

  15. I personally find it quite stunning that everybody gets worked up about this latest clone while their antisemitic ad quickly sank into oblivion. Although it can probably be explained – boycotting Behringer would mean losing access to cheap synths. And what could be more important in the world than that?

    1. 100% Nothing of the endemic plagiarism really matters in comparison to the blatant and pretty illegal if you take Behringer as a German company ( probably headquartered in some tax haven too ) Anti-Semitic stuff leveraged at Peter Kirn.

      But a bit of public racism is fine to get a copy of a pro-1 for Β£300, because that kind of stuff is “liberating the market”

  16. I’m I the only one who would like more sequencer and arp slots banks say banks0- 99 each of 8 so a 2 digit readout and a selector knob, and a way to say play seq4 bank 1 to seq 2 bank 73 on the fly?

  17. Strange how this Behringer attitude can alter one’s mind. I’ve been longing for their ARP 2600 clone for so long. But now they did this, the enthousiasm for their brand has dwindled.
    I bought myself an ARP Odyssey Rev3 today instead, at a most competitve price!
    No BARP 2600 for me anymore.
    An original Keystep Pro is on my wish list as well .

  18. Nobody: “Ten ways 80% of the guitar manufacturers could have improved on the Fender Stratocaster design”. But yeah, making Strat and Tele clones is perfectly fine, cloning something else is evil. You guys are really just a herd of sheep.

  19. Oh my goodness! Every time a article about Berhinger de-creating a vintage synth, millions of comments flood the post. If an article about an an new innovative synth or electronic instrument, no one seems to take interest in it.

  20. But nobody seems to care that almost all of arturia’s software products are straight rips? Licensed or not, stop pretending Arturia isn’t a copycat too.

    1. nobody is pissed that Behringer is releasing clones of the Minimoog or old Roland modular gear.
      in fact i encourage it and own a Filterbank.

      the (stupid) problem is them ripping a CURRENT already cheap controller for $20 advantage.

      who’s paying $20 (less) to say “look at me i’m an asshat!”?
      i mean proud asshats are out there and being contrarian is their brand, but is this a business/brand strategy?

      and Arturia’s hardware is innovative and well built and reasonably priced.
      and Pigments is great.

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